The Cobrapost research website on Tuesday claimed that several Bollywood celebrities and the music and television industries agreed to promote political narratives of particular parties on social media for a fee. In most cases, the party was the Bharatiya Janata Party, in others it was the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress, the media agency added.
Cobrapost said he carried out an investigation, dubbed “Operation Karaoke” by posing as employees of a fictitious public relations agency and using aliases. The main operation revealed that the reproduction singers Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal, the actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Aenderrara in the Park. His son Nikitin Dheer was willing to post favorable messages on social networks for political parties.
Other actors on this list include Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and his wife Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra,, Sunny Leone, the comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar, and the choreographer Ganesh Acharya and the dancer Sambhavana Seth.
Some of the stars also agreed to publish such messages without payment, the media agency added.
“They were willing to sign a fictitious contract for the approval of products to disguise the real nature of the political power campaign,” Cobrapost said. “They agreed to send us their banking and banking information, and many did. They swore to keep the entire exercise and the agenda hidden. “Some actors even proposed that they would promote the political party in their press meetings during the promotion of a film or an event.”
However, some celebrities, such as Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon, refused to promote any political party, Cobrapost said.
Cobrapost reporters approached actor Jackie Shroff by posing as employees of the Future PR company, one of whose clients is the Bharatiya Janata Party. The journalist told Shroff that the BJP wants to launch a digital campaign on social media for the 2019 elections, but he can not do it openly. In response, Shroff said the agenda does not matter as long as celebrities like him say good things about the party on social media and get paid for it.
“How long will this game last?” Shroff asked. “This work begins on September 1, 2018 and will continue for nine months,” said a journalist.
Shroff agreed to keep the task secret, claiming he is a close friend of a Union minister. “I understand the whole thing,” he said. “But I’m a non-political person who does not get into controversy.”
The actor refused to quote a fee for his services. But he said: “If I open the doors of my heart, will you open your purse?”
The undercover reporters agreed to pay Shroff generously. Cobrapost said his reporters then met with Shroff’s advisor Shetty, who told them that at least 20% of the amount paid should appear in the account books. “You can pay 80% in cash,” he agreed.
Singer Kailash Kher agreed to promote the BJP on his social media accounts when he was contacted by Cobrapost undercover reporters who posed as public relations agents. “You can tweet about the good work of the Modi government,” said one reporter. “Only three or four times a month.”
“What will be the commission paid for this?” Kher asked. The reporters told him that it depends on the number of people who follow the celebrity on social networks. “You have to tell us what you want to charge for a tweet,” the reporters asked. Kher asked them to come to his agency for negotiations.
When asked if he had any problems in taking on the task, Kher said: “No, not at all.” “You will give me the content, but I will filter it,” he added. The singer said he understood that it should not be obvious that he was promoting BJP on social networks.
“We will provide the content, but you will make the publications,” the reporters told singer Baba Sehgal in a phone call. “In a way, we’re hiring him, but his public image will be that you support the BJP ideology.”
“Yes, we do it, we’ve done it before,” he replied. “But how many tweets?” “You will have to do 4-5 tweets per month,” said one of the reporters when Sehgal said he can not meet with representatives of the PR agency while traveling.
Sehgal told reporters that he charges Rs 2 lakh for tweet. When asked what percentage of the payment he would receive in cash, the singer responded: “Can I take 50%, 30-40%? What percentage do you want blank [money]?” Sehgal expressed surprise when told that the agency can not deposit more. 20% of the amount in your account. However, he asked them to go ahead with the deal.
Cobrapost approached actor Poonam Pandey and informed him about the promotion of the government’s plans, such as Swacch Bharat, demonetization and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. “We will provide you with the content, you simply have to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in your style,” said one reporter.
“We will use your social media accounts in favor of the BJP,” said the journalist. “But the public will think that Poonam Pandey is saying this.”
Pandey agreed to perform this task. “Every time we make a publication, it never seems that she is promoting something obvious,” Pandey said. “If I write something after our mutual conversation, it will look real.” The reporters agreed to discuss the publications before publishing them.
The reporters gave Pandey detailed information about its payment structure, offering 20% in “white money” and 80% in cash. “All payments will be made in advance,” they added. Cobrapost said that Pandey agreed to make 15 social media posts a month on all platforms, for a charge of Rs 45 lakh.